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  • Writer's pictureMaria Chernetska

What is Structuring pictures through the camera?

You can only go so far in looking at the subject direct. Picture composition must be done looking through the camera, because this brings in all kinds of other influences. Some are helpful, others less so. With digital cameras and Polaroid backs you can see what your chosen composition looks like before you click the shutter.

This is very useful when dealing with commercial clients and art directors or if you are particularly unsure of what you want in the frame. Many photographers who use medium or large format will use a Polaroid back and test the composition and exposure with instant film first. Increasingly, digital cameras are taking over from the Polaroid backs.

The most obvious change is that you now have to work within a frame with distinct edges, corners and width-to-height ratio.

The viewfinder or focusing screen is like a sheet of paper – you don’t have to be able to draw on to it, but you must be able to see and structure pictures within its frame and give due thought to balance and proportions of tone or colour, the use of lines, best placing of your main feature, and so on. Some viewfinder systems make composition much easier than others. A poorly designed direct-vision finder, or the upside-down picture on a view camera screen, takes more time and practice to ‘compose through’ than the view-finding optics of a modern SLR camera.

A digital camera with viewing screen provides the clearest way of viewing your picture before it is shot; it also gives you the opportunity to shoot more photographs and so giving a greater chance of getting the picture you want, particularly in fast-moving situations. The digital camera viewing screen can also be used to show potential clients: it gives such a clear view of the image, but beware – it is usually one or two stops out in terms of exposure, so the final quality may be slightly different.

Using your camera as well as your eye means too that you add in all the techniques of photography, such as shallow or deep depth of field, blur, choice of focal length – usually to strengthen rather than detract from the points you want to make.

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